Two-year-old killed in home blaze

2016-04-06 23:00
A member of the Pietermaritzburg fire department extinguishes the flames after a fire broke out in Emvundlweni village outside Edendale, killing a child.

A member of the Pietermaritzburg fire department extinguishes the flames after a fire broke out in Emvundlweni village outside Edendale, killing a child. (Thabang Mathebula, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - A two-year-old girl died after her home was gutted by a fire in ­Emvundlweni village, outside ­Edendale on Wednesday.

The fire apparently started after children had been playing with matches in the house — the third such incident in less than two weeks. Sinakonke Mahlaba (2) died after she was trapped in the burning house. Her brother, Ziphosonke (3), was ­rescued by his grandfather, Joseph Zondi.

Zondi (83), partially blind, said his wife had just gone to town and he and the children had been taking a nap.

He said he was woken up when ­Ziphosonke started screaming and told him the house was on fire.

“The boy came running to me and said that the house is on fire. I ­instantly grabbed him by the hand and rushed him out of the house.

“Unfortunately when I tried to ­return to help the younger one the fire had spread and was too strong … I couldn’t save her,” he said.

His wife, Ntombincane Zondi (60), said she feared the worst when she spotted smoke coming from the area where her house is. She was about to take a taxi but returned to her house. “I realised the smoke was coming from my house,” she said.

“When I arrived, it was too late. My husband was outside with the boy staring at the fire while waiting for emergency services to come.”

A distraught Bonginkosi Mnikathi (30), the children’s father, said he did not imagine that he would lose a child in such a tragic manner.

He was at work when he was told that there had been a fire at his ­in-laws’ house.

He said he had taken a metered taxi to get to the house but en route he was told that his daughter had died. “That broke my heart.

“We are not living with the ­children because of work ­commitments. Their mother works in Durban. I can’t explain the pain that is in my heart now. We loved them so much,” he said.

Sinakonke’s body was recovered by the police’s search-and-rescue unit.

Fire department officer Nathi Mchunu said Sinakonke had tried desperately to get away from the flames.

“Normally when children are trapped in a fire, they look for a spot in the house where they can be safe, especially if they are alone. In this case, the baby was trying to find a safe spot,” said Mchunu.

He said the body was found in the bedroom where the children were playing before the fire started.

“We suspect they had been playing with matches,” he said.

Earlier this month, fires at the ­luxury Beacon Hill Country Estate and at a house in Bisley were ­attributed to having been started by children playing with matches.

• thabang.mathebula@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fire  |  death

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